A Queensland teenager has been stranded in Syria following the cancellation of his passport by the Australian government. Oliver Bridgeman, aged 19, is now stuck in Syria and unable to return home. His passport was cancelled for travelling to the conflict zone in Syria and suspected links with terror groups.
However, Bridgeman claims his activities in Syria had been purely humanitarian. His plight was highlighted by lawyer Alex Jones, who said the Queenslander was planning his return to Australia, reports News Corp. An appeal against the cancellation of passport will be filed on Monday.
Jones called the Australian government’s action of cancelling the passport as “nonsensical.” He also cited the distress it caused to his client’s parents. “The Australian government has stranded a Queensland teenager in a foreign country,” Jones alleged. He said Bridgeman wanted to come back and had been co-operating with the authorities. The lawyer asserted that Jones had no links with terrorists and was spending time in Syria, feeding and clothing the poor.
He said the option of issuing a “limited validity travel document” is not workable as surrendering his cancelled passport involves travelling to the nearest consular post in Turkey. If Bridgeman tried to cross the Syrian border he will be arrested and sent to jail for 10 years. Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop refused to comment on individual cases.
“The government has consistently and in the strongest terms discouraged Australians from travelling to Iraq and Syria to participate in hostile activities,” she said in a statement.
The Foreign minister noted that Australians travelling to Syria or Iraq have been forewarned of risks such as kidnapping, injuries or even death. “The Australian government cannot facilitate the safe passage of people out of the conflict zones,” Bishop said.
According to the Australian Federal Police (AFP), Bridgeman left Toowoomba in March 2015 after telling parents that he would be working with a Bali based charity. In April, he surfaced in Syria and started working for an aid group called Live Updates From Syria.
The AFP alleged that the teenager had aligned himself with a “proscribed group” implying Jabhat al-Nusra, al-Qaida’s proxy arm in Syria. Bridgeman also told The Guardian in August that he travelled to Syria because “Islam teaches us to help the needy, so this is my Islamic obligation.” He also put up some Facebook posts denying allegations that he fled to Syria for joining any terror group.